SYLACAUGA, Ala. – With a new year comes a new learning style. The start of 2017 signals that Sylacauga City Schools students in Grades 4 and 7 will begin piloting an entirely new learning initiative, called Digital by Design. In the Digital by Design initiative, the school system is moving to a one-to-one student-to-device ratio to create equitable learning opportunities and enhance the current learning experience for students.

Each student will be given a personal device called a Chromebook. Chromebooks are Google-based notebooks using Google applications like Google Drive, Docs, and Slides, which are all cloud-based programs.

“The mission of Sylacauga City Schools is for our students to graduate as model citizens, prepared for college and career choices. Digital by Design creates limitless opportunities for our system to continue its pursuit of excellence,” said Sylacauga City Schools Superintendent Todd Freeman. “The initiative will enhance school experiences through a learning environment focused on the skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Our students will learn the value of digital citizenship in moving our community, state, and nation to greater heights.”

Parents of seventh grade students recently attended parent sessions to learn the new school policies regarding devices, sign contracts, and preview Google-based learning applications. Students have received Chromebooks and will begin classwork on the devices in the upcoming week.

Seventh grade Language Arts teacher Natalie Hubbard is particularly excited for her students to begin work on the devices. Hubbard says “Our students will now have the opportunity to learn and enhance their technological knowledge, which will prepare them for high school and their futures in the outside world. One particular aspect that excites me is helping the students become acquainted with Google Docs and Slides. The days of remembering to save are officially over. I love the fact that the students can log in to their Google accounts on any computer, and all their essays, presentations are there. They never lose them.”

A similar rollout process for fourth grade students is set to take place in the first half of the second semester. The school system is looking to identify potential issues and conflicts before proceeding with the next grade level. In addition, school infrastructure must be updated. Prior to the seventh grade rollout, the school system placed additional wireless internet routers throughout Nichols-Lawson Middle School to provide sufficient connection speeds for all students. Pinecrest Elementary School is currently undergoing those updates.

Assisting in the rollout of the Digital by Design initiative is Sylacauga High School’s Future Business Leaders of America organization. For its 2016-2017 service project, FBLA members underwent Google application training and will now offer seventh grade students training in the classroom setting. FBLA members helped Nichols-Lawson Middle School staff inventory and distribute the new devices and were also present during parent sessions to offer parents an overview of the learning applications on Chromebooks.

At the start of the 2017-2018 school year, all students in Grades 3-12 will be given a Chromebook. Grades K-2 will not be left out the initiative; instead of receiving individual devices, these grades will have classroom sets of devices to begin exposing students to technology.

Jack Wilbanks for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2016, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.